One person dies and five are put on ventilators after catching deadly disease from their TAP WATER in California
A California resident died after drinking tap water contaminated with a deadly bacteria.
They were among more than a dozen people who contracted Legionnaires' disease as a result of a poorly maintained water system in Napa County, about an hour northeast of San Francisco.
The outbreak occurred in July 2022, but was only revealed today in a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
CDC researchers traced the cluster of cases to dirty maintenance of several water plant cooling towers, which allowed bacteria to multiply and flow through pipes into people's homes and taps, hitting them every time they took a sip of water.
Officials identified a “high-risk zone” in the Napa area, which was defined as the area within a mile radius of a cluster of patient homes. Eight facilities have been tested, seven of which are in the risk radius
Legionnaires' disease is a serious form of pneumonia caused by the Legionella bacteria, which typically thrives in large buildings where the bacteria grow in the water supply.
About 10 percent of people who become ill with Legionnaires' disease will die due to complications from their illness, but in people with weakened immune systems the death rate can be as high as 30 percent.
It's especially a problem in warm climates — like Napa, where summer weather soars into the 80s — where the heat helps the species reproduce.
Napa County Public Health (NCPH) reported 14 confirmed cases, with an additional three suspected cases.
Of the confirmed patients, ten had to be admitted to intensive care and five were put on ventilators.
A total of 16 cases and suspected cases were hospitalized, and one died.
On July 11 and 12, 2022, NCPH received reports of three positive tests for the disease in Napa, the famed wine country.
Further investigation revealed eleven more confirmed cases and three suspected cases between July 11 and August 15, 2022. California typically experiences one to two cases of Legionnaires' disease per year.
It was discovered that 14 patients lived in downtown Napa, two had visited downtown Napa and one worked in the area.
The close location and timing of the cases allowed the health agency, along with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the CDC, to focus its investigation on facilities in a small area.
Public health officials sequenced samples from the positive tests and water, allowing them to link the outbreak to an environmental source.
Officials identified a “high-risk zone” in the Napa area, which was defined as the area within a mile radius of a cluster of the patient homes.
Eight facilities have been tested, seven of which are in the risk radius.
Of those seven, five locations tested positive for Legionella and in all cases the facilities' cooling towers tested positive for the bacteria.
Inspections, records and samples of the facilities revealed a lack of proper maintenance of the cooling towers. Many of the cooling towers had no or low chlorine levels, which kills parasites, bacteria and viruses in the water.
Officials said this was because the facilities did not properly add the cleaning solution to the towers or there was a glitch in the system, including clogged pipes that prevented the cleaning solution from flowing into the water tower.
After reviewing the findings, public health officials alerted local health care providers asking them to conduct testing for Legionella in patients with pneumonia or similar symptoms.
An alert was also sent to the public, informing them of the situation and encouraging those with symptoms to seek help.
Officials also alerted facilities that had tested positive, including issuing a legal order to close a location that did not respond to officials.
Legionnaires' disease can be spread through air conditioning units, showers and tap water, and the bacteria can cause life-threatening pneumonia – a disease the US is seeing an outbreak in children.
Symptoms include coughing, difficulty breathing, fever, muscle aches, headache and chest pain.
To prevent the bacteria from growing, health and safety guidelines say that the hot water supply should be kept at a minimum of 122 degrees Fahrenheit, because the bacteria cannot survive at this high temperature.
Cold water should be kept below 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
Doctors can diagnose Legionnaires' disease through a urine or blood test to see if a person has Pontiac fever, a mild flu-like illness caused by exposure to the Legionella bacteria. However, a negative test does not rule out that someone has the disease.
Once diagnosed, Legionnaires' disease requires treatment with antibiotics.
The latest data from the CDC shows that 8,900 cases of the disease were reported in 2019, but the actual number is likely higher because many cases go undiagnosed.